Hope, Grit, and Resilience – Fathers and Families Center’s Keys to Educational Success

Last Updated by Rudy L Duran on

There is a burning question that haunts many educators today – Why don’t more students value education enough to stick it out and graduate? After all, the public education system as we know it today has all kinds of programs and mechanisms in place to meet the needs of their students and encouragements for them to graduate. So why do so many dropout of high school?

As a former high school principal, middle school principal, superintendent, and current education manager at Fathers and Families Center in Indianapolis, I have drawn some conclusions based on personal observation. One event that has stuck in mind over the years is something that happened to me when I was a principal. I had a student in my office that I was dealing with for a disciplinary matter. As I did what I always do when I have the chance, I began talking to the student about his future and how the decisions he was making would influence his life later. I tried to make the point that he needed to get a good education so he could be successful and make a good life for himself and his family in the future. To my amazement he looked me in the eye and made the following statement, “I don’t need no education, I’m gonna get a check just like my momma.”

Wow! I was floored! Why was I breaking my neck to educate a student who had that kind of an attitude? Of course I was there because there were certainly plenty of students that didn’t have that attitude and even though he didn’t know it he still needed an education as well. However, I believe it was, and is, a symbol of a fundamental problem that educators face every day; how do we “motivate” students to “want” an education when society discourages it? What do I mean, society discourages it?

Since coming to Fathers and Families Center, I have seen people’s lives changed. I have seen many of them get their High School Equivalency and move forward in a positive fashion that, just a few months ago, would have seemed impossible to them and others observing them. I’ve seen young men and women grab hold of life and restart their journey, many times after not only dropping out of school, but many times landing in the judicial system. So, how is this accomplished?

The journey to a new life at Fathers and Families Center begins with training and learning new ways of living. We begin their journey by training our participants to have hope, grit, and resilience. What does that mean? Our society, to be “helpful” to people in poverty, has created programs that were designed to be “temporary” safe havens for the poor. Unfortunately, they have become permanent snares, and as result, we have destroyed any need for “grit” or “resilience.” “Grit” is the need to “stick-to-it”, finishing what we start, like an education. “Resilience” is the desire not to let our circumstances defeat us and to get up off the ground when we are knocked down by life and situations. In our effort to be helpful, over time we have added more and more programs to be “temporary” safe harbors for the poor that have become permanent “life shapers” instead. There is absolutely no condemnation for those who have gravitated to these safety nets— that’s what they are designed for, but the side effects have been devastating to many people. It has become unnecessary to have “grit” and “resilience.” Thus, the statement by my former student who saw his life as a future of “drawing a check.” The reality is life is a “grind” and sometimes things don’t go our way and we have to get up and start over or “reload” to move forward. We must be “resilient” and constantly look for ways to overcome our circumstances. Young people must be re-taught, or taught for the first time, “grit” and “resilience” to be successful in school and life.  

As participants at Fathers and Families Center acquire the knowledge to use “grit” and “resilience,” HOPE rises up in them and they begin to believe that there is more for them in this life than what they are currently experiencing. HOPE that is not based on platitudes and political promises, but on “their” ability to complete something as they finish the High School Equivalency program; a WorkOne Training Program; or College Readiness Program.

It is not a great leap to extrapolate that students must be confronted early on with training on the topics of “grit” and “resilience” in high school. Since both of these topics may be foreign to the typical high school student at any economic level, the curriculum could be the turning point for many students who are destined to fall into the “life shaping” safety net that has been provided by society which could be their demise.

How do you think we can show students the value of education? How do we instill hope, grit, and resilience in all students? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and on social media using #AmGradIndy.


Rudy Duran.jpg Dr. Duran has served as a graduate professor in Educational Leadership; school superintendent; high school principal; middle school principal; and teacher. He was selected by the National School Boards Association as One of “Twenty-to-Watch” in the United States in 2008 for emerging education technology implementation. Currently, he is the Education Manager at Fathers and Families Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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